Review – Everything You Need to Know When a Brother or Sister is Autistic

Everything You Need to Know When a Brother or Sister is Autistic – Marsha Sarah Rosenberg

When a brother or sister is autisticFrom the title of this book, you would expect the text within to be aimed at children and teenagers who have autistic siblings. I would personally expect such a book to contain information, advice and support for those aforementioned siblings. I think that is what this book tried to do, but it fell quite short of the mark.

Autism is a complicated and severe disability that usually appears during the first three years of life. It occurs in about fifteen of every 10,000 births and it is four times more common in boys than in girls.

When I read that line I went and checked the date this book was published, 2000, in case that explained the inaccuracies in the prevalence rates. However, a quick check of one of the CDC reports of prevalence rates of Autism over the years shows that they were reporting 6.7 children per 1,000 were autistic. Which would be 60.7 children per 10,000. It could be a typo, but it’s an important fact to get wrong.

The first half of the book is a condensed (and at times inflexible and stereotyped) description of autism – going over how autism presents and the difficulties that autistic people have. The explanations themselves are okay, and it does cover many aspects of autism briefly, but it jumps around a lot. The whole book is a bit all over the place, as if Rosenberg couldn’t decide how to structure all the information so just wrote it all down and published it.  The other problem the book has it that at times it doesn’t seem like it is aimed at children and teenagers, and then other times it address the siblings of autistic people directly. There is a short section where the use of melatonin is mentioned which stuck out (why would a sibling need to know that over much more useful information?), and then the book moved onto:

There are over 5.8 million children in the United States with disabilities. Many of these children have brothers and sisters just like you. As the sibling of someone with a disability, you likely share many of the same concerns as a parent of a disabled child.

The second half of the book is then a really quick rush through a variety of things involved in being the sibling of an autistic child. Again, as with the first half, there are lots of bits and pieces of information covered from what a sibling can do to help their autistic sibling, through to the types of emotions a neurotypical sibling might feel, and support groups. However, nothing is covered in any sort of depth and there isn’t a lot in the way of actual advice or support.

The Children’s Sibling Support Project maintains a database of over 200 sibshops and other sibling programs within the United States. You can contact this organization to find out if there is a program in your area. If there isn’t one near you, it can assist you in starting one.

It’s a shame this book falls short on so many areas, because you can see that it’s trying to present information to children with autistic siblings in an easy to process manner, and that it’s trying to give them as much information as possible without getting over-complicated. Unfortunately it does end up being a bit all over the place and doesn’t provide very much in the way of in-depth information or advice.

Resources

The Sibling Support Project – They have dropped “Children’s” from the name as they now provide support to adult siblings.

SibNet – The above group’s Facebook page for adult siblings of autistic people. It is a closed group so others cannot see postings you make to the group.

References

CDC: Prevalence of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in Multiple Areas of the United States, 2000 and 2002 (2007) – http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/documents/AutismCommunityReport.pdf

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